Okay, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. The government is out to get you and me, except I'm hiding under my desk while I write this. It is my understanding that many plumbing professionals (and other formerly essential contractor types) are hiding out too because of “the economy.”
See, the government is out to get them because a lot of people link the following together: First, the sub-prime mortgage market tanked. Then, people who were building houses that no one wanted became instantly jobless. This of course means gas prices went through the roof. Don't ask me why, just play along. Then, in a shocking development, every news agency in North America simultaneously reported a story with a headline that was roughly, “Economy bad, either Clinton or Obama good. Pick one.”
So obviously, the plumbing business has gone into the toilet so to speak. Your phone and that of all your competitors is not ringing because the economy is so bad no one is even using their plumbing anymore. I hate to put it this way, but that's just “how it is.” Call me insensitive.
If you believe a word of the above, please quit reading this magazine and go sell all your tools on eBay. Then, go to the interstate with a sign saying, “Will perform trenchless re-pipe for food!” That ought to do it.
Or you can merely let the overreaction to the economic woes send competitors into under-reaction on marketing while you get even bolder. Many multi-millionaires have been minted during harder times because the competition reeled in for no reason other than thoroughly unfounded fear.
That's why many of our coaching clients have been enjoying record sales. They're actually spending a bit less on marketing this year (except for customer retention sectors, for reasons well-covered in these articles).
An easier marketing task
With heavily competitive marketing, you'd better have a “better than ever” offer to get attention.
I've discussed various methods of signage for yards, vehicles, follow-up mailers, on-hold messages and more in previous columns and in a report called, “12 Simple and Dirt Cheap Ways to Market Your Plumbing Company,” but I only want to focus on one for now.
Send a high quality postcard with a well-placed image or customer retention message (not a hard-driving “sales” message). First, your competition likely is not doing this, thus you get differentiation points. Next, you'll save on postage because postcard rates are a little more than half the letter rate. (I prefer oversized postcards at a higher rate because of more “selling space,” which offsets postage several times.) Third, a well-written effort boosts credibility, sales, referrals and builds TOMA, or top of mind awareness. Last, postcards require no envelope, can be metered and are very inexpensive to print. They can be sent out to your entire database almost immediately.
Creating a summer postcard
Focus on a singular summer-themed headline
Please don't fall victim to the ever-stupid and overused, “COOL deals for HOT days” or “Summer SALE-a-bration” or anything remotely similar. I beg of you. Consider kids out of school, vacations, recreation, July 4 or distinctive headlines and photos. If you send to your customer base, there is no need to advertise a discount; just reinforce the relationship. Guilt is stronger than discounts, and this group is not loyal because of your discounts. Discounts “buy” customers the first time; service and relationship keep them.
Tie the headline to a magnetic photo
Don't show equipment or trucks because these have virtually zero attraction rates. Royalty-free photos are available at many Websites that can have thousands of photos — although the discs can be $2,500, but this beats a professional photographer at $300 per hour. We sift through several hundred for the “right” ones, but this process is what draws the reader or turns them away. Children in summer activities rank No. 1 in female-oriented focus groups, which account for nearly 70% of the readership.
Stand out from the junk mail
People receive so much clutter in the mail nowadays that it's difficult to keep your well-crafted marketing message from going straight to the trash. By spending a little extra money, you can get a larger than usual postcard that will attract more attention than the standard size. Also, you can forgo the metering for a highly distinctive stamp, several stamps or an American flag stamp for July 4.
“Sell” them on your relationship with a soft call to action
This means drawing the reader into the copy, then reminding them of your service and that you can “fix” many of the ills connected with their hot weather or plumbing-related issues. The point of this is to reinforce a relationship in order to make a sale, not to print a pitch on a postcard.
Two extra “lead bumps” for smart marketers
You can include a request for referrals such as, “We'd be delighted to hear from you or your friends anytime.” You also can turn the postcard into a $10 off coupon (or whatever amount) with one sentence at the end or on the front. It's simple with no extra costs and it increases leads. This promotes good will toward your company, and even if the person who gets your card doesn't want to use it, they might give it to a friend or neighbor who will.
Lastly, take control. Don't expect the weather to bring you customers, and don't merely hope they'll remember your name from last season. Put your name in their mind and narrow the chances that they will seek the Yellow Pages — where all your competitors are. Speaking of competitors, do you think they'll be sending postcards? It's not likely.
Your customers are waiting to hear from you. They need to be reminded of your service and relationship. Last time I checked, they still use their plumbing.